In an Ohio Supreme Court ruling this morning, offenders who wish to have their criminal records sealed must pay restitution first. Before a trial court has the authority to seal an offender's criminal record, they must ensure that the offender has completed all terms of their sentence, including any court-ordered restitution.
The conflict came to the high court after an appeals court reversed a decision entered into by Franklin County Municipal Court. The case stems back to an event that took place in 2002 when a defendant entered into a guilty plea for theft. The defendant received her sentence, which included paying restitution to the individual she stole from.
Ten years later, the defendant had completed her sentence but was still in the process of paying off some of the restitution when she applied for record sealing. The trial court ruled to have her records sealed. The state appealed but the ruling was affirmed. The Supreme Court evaluated the case and found that it violated state record sealing laws.
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor who wrote the court's decision said,
"final discharge cannot occur until restitution is fully paid," the chief justice wrote. "Only then does the three-year waiting period in R.C. 2953.32(A)(1) commence to run, and only after the expiration of that period may Aguirre apply to have her record sealed. … [T]he person or entity to whom restitution is owed is immaterial, unless the person or entity was not statutorily eligible for restitution at the time of the order."
If you would like to learn more about this ruling, read it on Court News Ohio.